Indian American Dr Harmesh Kumar to run for House seat vacated by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Ritu Jha–

Indian American Dr Harmesh Kumar, who is running from California Congressional District 20, which was earlier held by former US House speaker Kevin McCarthy, said that if elected, he will work on affordable housing for all, and support immigrants, small business owners, and farmers. California will be holding a special election on March 19 to fill the seat previously held by McCarthy, a Republican, which has been pending for eight months. If no candidate receives a majority, a runoff election will take place on May 21.

Dr. Kumar, a Bay Area clinical psychologist, who earlier ran for a US Senate seat from California, says the Democratic party wants him to run from District 20. “I am confident that, among among all the nine contestants, I am the frontrunner,” he told indica. The main congressional elections are slated for November this year.

He said he has received several endorsements, and is optimistic about his chances. “There are 47,000 Indian-origin voters in the 20th Congressional District and I need 31,000 votes to win,” he said. “A majority of the local leaders and local chapters have endorsed me, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization, and a black women’s association have endorsed me. I’m getting more and more endorsements.”

If Dr Kumar wins, it will lower the gap between the Republicans and the Democrats in the House. Currently, Republicans hold the House with a 219-212 majority.

“A win in this district has national implications for both Democrats and Republicans,” Dr Kumar said. “If I convert this seat from Republican to Democrat, it will be a great, great achievement for the Democrat Party.” He said Congressmen John Garamendi and Ro Khanna, an Indian American, are working on getting more endorsements for him.

Kumar’s Democratic rival is Marisa Wood. “She ran in 2022 and a couple of times before that, but didn’t win. She was told by the Democrat committee not to run for this special election because I’m not running for the primary elections scheduled to be held by this year’s end. Wood had the understanding with the Democrat committee that she wouldn’t run for the special election. But 15 minutes before the deadline for filing of nomination, she filed for the special election. That’s why most people got angry at her.”

Whether Kumar wins or loses in the March election, he will not be able to run for the main elections in November. “I won’t be able to file my nomination for the November election. “I will not be able to file for November, I will be able to run after 18 months in the March election.”

Dr. Kumar runs a nursing home and assisted living center in his constituency. People know him because they have a large number of Indian voters in this district. “So that’s why I thought I had a chance,” he said.

His priorities for the eight-month term are: “First of all, I will tackle the affordable housing problem because people are suffering and many are not able to make ends meet. More than 60% of the people in my district are living hand-to-mouth. Earlier, people used to get housing in the rural areas. But, now even in rural areas, it is difficult to get housing. The healthcare system also needs to be simplified; it is so complicated. Most of the rural hospitals have been closed, we need to get those hospitals started again and get the requisite funding. And, immigration is a big issue in this election.”

He added, “In this district, a majority of the voters are Spanish-speaking and they are struggling. Their relatives are coming from Mexico, and there is so much negativity about Mexican immigrants. We will educate the public about that, that they are human beings, too. Both the Democrats and Republicans have to deal with this issue more humanely.”

Mental health, and homelessness, are the other focus areas for Dr Kumar. “The solution is to channel the funding that we already have in the right direction. We have so much funding, that is being thrown to cronies, while the masses don’t know about the schemes that are there for them. That’s where I could make some difference. Affordable housing, domestic violence, mass shootings, and homelessness are all related to the systematic policies that they have implemented.”

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